Poll fever in the southern state of Karnataka hit new highs on Monday as Bharatiya Janata Party's national president Amit Shah was in the state, trying to counter Siddaramiah government's latest move to turn over BJP's support base amid the Lingayat community.
From meeting the 110-year-old seer of the community to terming Chief Minister Siddaramaiah "Ahindu (anti-Hindu)", Shah was in full-swing to counter the Karnataka government's latest move to grant the community a separate religion status.
In between, he also reached out to the areca nut and coconut growers, while he had another program scheduled in Shivamogga to address the state's traders' community. But the thrust of Shah's two-day visit seemed to remain on retaining Lingayat community's support as he visited several Mutts of the community.
"This Siddaramaiah government has brought this proposal, not because it has love for Lingayats, but to prevent Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister," he said addressing a Coconut Growers Convention here, as he began his two-day tour of election-bound Karnataka.
"Rahul Gandhi says that Congress unites Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians. He should look at how Siddaramaiah is trying to divide even Hindus, leave alone all other religions. In reality, Siddaramaiah is not an 'AHINDA' leader but 'Ahindu," Shah said.
AHINDA is the Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits, which was pitted as a superior socio-political philosophy to combat Hindutva, by Siddaramaiah
"I want to tell Karnataka people that if BJP wins a majority, we will make Yeddyurappa chief minister," he added.
The BJP had bent its own rules to name Lingayat heavyweight septuagenarian Yeddyurappa as BJP's chief ministerial candidate, even as the leader was embroiled in a corruption case.
However, the state cabinet's recent decision to recommend to the Centre to accord religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats seems to have outwitted the party's strategy to woo the community in the name of Yeddyurappa.
Shah said that the proposal, which was rejected by the then Manmohan Singh government at the Centre in 2013, was only aimed at creating confusion among people. He, however, believed that the people of the state would not be enticed by Siddaramaiah's "divide-and-rule politics."
Rahul should first point fingers at Siddaramaiah for dividing people before accusing BJP of it, Shah said.
"The Congress ship is sinking and to save it, the Congress is making its last efforts, and what it is doing? It is making efforts to divide people. The Congress chief minister is playing divide-and-rule politics of the British," Shah said.
He also criticised the Siddaramiah government for not bringing in the proposal earlier. "The Siddaramaiah government has proposed to accord religion and minority status to Lingayats, but why did it not do it earlier? Because that time, there was no need for gaining votes," the BJP president said.
He also launched a scathing attack on the Siddaramaiah government for failing to prevent farmers' suicides.
"In five years of Siddaramaiah's rule, as many as 3,781 farmers committed suicides. I want to ask the government, who is responsible for these suicides?" he asked.
"If you vote Yeddyurappa to become chief minister, I assure you farmers' suicides will come to a halt," he said. At a meeting in Shivamogga, the home district of Yeddyurappa. Shah said all development works in Karnataka under the Siddaramaiah government had come to a standstill. Shah also praised Yeddyurappa for tirelessly fighting for farmers' rights.
"Yeddyurappaji is regarded as the leader who has always stood for the interests of farmers. He had taken a ‘Padyatra’ of 65 kilometres in 1982 for the farmers in Karnataka. He continues to fight for farmers," Shah said.
He alleged that the Rs 40-lakh watch controversy has exposed Siddaramaiah's corrupt practises.
"Siddaramaiah seeks proof from us about his corrupt practices. I have a big list before me, but everyone knows about Siddaramaiah wearing a Rs 40 lakh watch, which has only exposed his corruption and false credential of a socialist leader," he said.
"How many people can afford such a watch? Siddaramaiah is the socialist leader who wears watch worth Rs 40 lakh, that indicates how much corruption they have done," Shah said, answering his own question.
A controversy had arisen in May 2016 over Siddaramaiah wearing a gifted diamond-studded Hublot watch, whose value was then estimated at Rs 70 lakh.
But after the row erupted, he had handed it over to the Assembly speaker with a request to treat it as a state asset.
Shah urged the people to ask the Siddaramaiah government where the grants given by the Centre had vanished. He said the Modi government has introduced 112 central schemes, but their benefits were not reaching people.
Shah also likened the Siddaramaiah government to a burnt electricity transformer and asked people to overthrow it because the grants by the Centre for various central schemes were not percolating down to the people.
He also held a massive roadshow in Shivamogga, where he launched the state BJP's "Karunadu Jagruti Yatre' – a rally to awaken the electorate of Karnataka against the "misrule" of the Siddaramaiah government. The move was apparently a counter to Rahul's Jan Ashirwad Yatre.
The BJP president began his two-day tour by seeking the blessings of Sri Shivakumara Swami of Siddhaganga Mutt in Tumakuru, a revered seer of the Lingayat community. Shah's meeting with the seer is being seen as an attempt to reach out to the Lingayats/Veeshaivas, who are numerically and politically powerful in the state and form a major voter base for the BJP.
"Standing in front of Sri Sri Sri Shivakumaraji feels like standing in front of God. He has succeeded in bringing all sections of society together through education. I pray for his long life," Shah said.
He also visited the Bekkinakkal mutt in Shivamogga district.
With inputs from agencies.
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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2018 22:23:31 IST